I sit fearfully on the plane, my mind a jumble of thoughts and feelings. Suppose I don’t get there in time to say goodbye? Suppose I do and she doesn’t die for days? What am l supposed to do?

I had been told, “Come tonight, don’t wait. She may not last until morning.” As I threw things in my suitcase, I thought I was prepared for this inevitable time. I had assurances from friends that I could stay with them. I planned to rent a car-those were the rational plans, but 1 was shaking and knew I wouldn’t be a safe driver. Jon called my friend and she insisted on meeting me at the airport and taking me to the nursing home.

Mom was still alive when we arrived. Now what? I’ve never done this before! I’m scared — me, the competent professional helper — I don’t know what to do!

This isn’t the vibrant mother I knew; this isn’t even the shrunken, peaceful woman I had seen the week before. I tell her I’m here. I
kiss her and hold her hand. Her only response is a slight change in her very quiet breathing.

My friend shows me how to moisten my mother’s lips; she says “Talk to her, tell her how much you love her. Tell her about the happy times you remember. Sing to her.”

I sit. I talk. I pray. I moisten her lips. I touch. I pray. I talk. The nurses come and go; they tell me, “Hearing is the last thing to go. Talk to her.” I talk to Mom about letting go. I am assured that, if I go nap, I will be called if there is any change. 1 nap. I return. I moisten her lips. I sit. I talk. 1 pray. I even sing a little. Morning comes.

People come. Mom is much loved. Administrators, nurses from other areas, the director of nursing, all want to make sure she is as comfortable as she can be, and that I have what I need. I sit with my father, and we talk.

My sister arrives. I’m no longer the only one. My brother won’t arrive for another day.

I am no longer afraid. The process is slow but inexorable. The process is the same, but now I shock myself by thinking, “Hurry up! Why does this have to take so long?”

I am angry that life ends so slowly: five years of deterioration and this final, slow leave-taking. My sister returns to stay with Mom. I say goodbye again and go to my friend’s house to sleep.

As I prepare to return, the phone rings. “Hurry back — it’s time.” I meet my sister in the hall. Mom is gone. We embrace. I go to my father, who is alone with her body.

We take turns sitting with Mom’s body until my brother arrives. People come and say goodbye, and talk about the good times. I am surprised at how peaceful I feel.

We celebrate her life and ours as we (father and children) talk with each other. There is sadness, yes, and relief. She has peacefully made her transition, and our lives continue.

[tags]Aging Parents,Parents, Personal Growth,Relationships[/tags]